Inflation, supply chain shortages making it harder and more expensive to obtain needed medical equipment

Continued supply chain disruptions have made it difficult for medical officials to get their hands on much-needed equipment, from wheelchairs, crutches to canes and even exam tables.

The war in Ukraine only exacerbates these supply chain issues – which have persisted for the past two years – because Russia is a major producer of nickel, chromium and steel,” said Cindy Juhas. , Chief Strategy Officer of CME Corp.

As a result, it takes “two to three times longer to get things done,” she said. And when they arrive, the cost of these products has increased in part due to increased transportation and raw material costs.

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CME is one of the largest national medical equipment-focused distributors in the United States, offering more than 2 million products from over 2,000 manufacturers.

Stretchers assembled by CME. (CME Corp.)

“So far in 2022, we are already seeing annual price increases that are up to four or even five times higher than usual,” Juhas said. The company reviewed 339 pricing contracts from a total of 167 major medical providers.

Juhas said the maker of one of CME’s most popular wheelchairs had added an extra 20% to cover the cost of raw materials and transportation of the product in just the last four months.

Costs for crutches have also increased by around 20%, although they have even been difficult to obtain, she said.

Meanwhile, exam tables have increased by 20 to 30 percent and are also about four to five months behind schedule, according to Juhas.

To highlight this issue, the American Hospital Association reported that between fall 2020 and early 2022, the cost of energy, resins, cotton, and most metals “increased by more than 30 %”.

“These are all essential components in the manufacture of medical supplies and devices used daily in hospitals,” the AHA said.

As a result, hospitals “turned to local providers and non-traditional vendors, often paying significantly higher rates than before the pandemic.”

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Some health centers across the country have even resorted to asking for donations for equipment.

Joey Kamerath, senior medical director of rehabilitation services at Intermountain Healthcare, said the department’s supply chain was “completely dry”.

To help, Intermountain, along with University of Utah Health, Steward Health, and the Utah Hospital Association, created a program called LeanOnUtah to collect metal crutches, walkers, canes, and wheelchairs. not motorized.

medical equipment supply chain issues

CME gets truckloads and medical equipment loads from its warehouses across the country. (CME)

Similarly, the Charleston Area Medical Center in West Virginia announced last fall that the pandemic and supply disruptions had created a “national shortage of adult crutches” and that its suppliers had no was able to fulfill the orders.

The medical center asked its Facebook followers “that anyone who may have unused crutches at home consider donating them to patients,” adding that these donations “will help those who may need crutches when ‘they will be discharged from the hospital after injury or surgery.’

Juhas predicted that these problems – rising costs and a shortage of supply – will persist at least until the end of the year and possibly even into the first quarter of 2023.

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